Introduction for the Effective Altruism forum
I have copied below the impact report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Future Generations secretariat. The APPG for Future Generations has in part been funded by this community, via the Long-Term Future Fund, so we felt it would be appropriate to share here the story of what has happened with that funding.
When I started on this project just over 2.5 years ago I was expecting any impact reports in our first few years to say something like: “Well people are talking about our ideas more but nothing significant has changed yet because policy change is difficult and slow – but that’s OK let's give it time.” This is not what has happened. I am proud and also somewhat surprised to be writing that the APPG, working through UK Parliamentarians, appears to be consistently having identifiable impacts on UK policy in ways that we believe will positively affect the world for future generations. Full details below.
I hope this report provides a reasonable yardstick to think about the impact of policy influencing, that you find it an interesting tale and that it gives a sense of what working in policy is like.
This year, if there was one piece of advice I would give to others in the policy space working on similar projects it is:
- Pick you battles well and make sure you are pushing on doors that will open if pushed. Sometimes it seems like a lot of third sector policy advocacy is directed towards policy ideas that are impossible in the current climate. The policy changes you want to see might not be immediately achievable but incremental changes in that direction might be. Of course there is no benefit on pushing for things that will happen anyway.
I am sure there are situations where this does not apply but it is the advice I would have given myself of 2.5 years ago for working in this area.
Readers might also be interested to see our 2020-21 strategy document
For ease of reading I recommend downloading the pdf version available here. The EA Forum has not fully captured the formatting of content in tables or coloured text.
APPG for Future Generations
01 June 2020 – 30 June 2021
Authors: Natasha Brian, Sam Hilton
Review: Caroline Baylon
2. Inputs and action
3. KPI evaluation
Growth of the APPG
Direct impact caused
Evidence of momentum and traction
Thank you for taking the time to read our latest impact report. This report is aimed at assessing the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Future Generations secretariat and the impact that the APPG has had from 1st June 2020 to 31st June 2021.
The APPG for Future Generations was established in 2017 with a view to represent and to safeguard the rights of future generations and to push back against political short termism. The APPG supports Parliamentarians to fairly consider the interests of all future generations and ensure that our Members have the resources to work and plan for the long-term.
The APPG secretariat will use this report as a tool for improving our work going forward. By measuring our impact we (the secretariat) can develop more detailed, effective future plans and ensure that we are providing useful support to Parliamentarians. We also hope that it will guide others who are doing similar work in this space as to lessons learned, and methodologies that we found to be more or less effective.
Like many APPGs we are funded by charitable grants. Our funders are the Long Term Future Fund and the Survival and Flourishing Fund. (As well as supporting the APPG a small amount of donors’ funds were also used to support additional research by the APPG secretariat, also discussed in this report). A secondary purpose of this report is to demonstrate to our funders how an active APPG can play a role in moving debate forward, and can facilitate conversations and non-partisan actions on a topic.
Despite tracking policy change, the APPG (including the secretariat to the APPG) is not a lobby group, rather, we provide non-partisan support to all UK Parliamentarians who care about the future. The impact we have on the world is through Parliamentarians.
As such we would like to express gratitude for those MPs, across the political spectrum, who have been our officers for this last year and a half. Particular thanks go to our Chair Bambos Charalambous MP, our Co-Chair Lord John Bird and all of our Vice-Chairs and Officers. Thanks are also due to Lord Martin Rees and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk for providing support to the secretariat of this APPG.
Dates – this impact report covers: 01 June 2020 until 30 June 2021 which is 13 months.
Costs – running the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Future Generations over these dates cost £63,500 funding roughly 1.7 full time equivalent staff.
Inputs – in this time we carried out research, held events and supported specific projects:
- Research: An inquiry into long-termism in policy making. With high level expert speakers attending evidence sessions.
- Research: on Risk Management in the UK the APPG secretariat staff producing a paper, feeding into the Future Proof’ paper and responding to calls for evidence.
- Events: 13 events including: 4 inquiry events, a launch of the Risk Management paper, ‘Recess Reading’ events, and a launch of the ‘Future Proof’ paper.
- Campaigns: for a Future Generations Bill to embed a focus on Future Generations into the structures of policy making. Focused on the UK (Westminster) and Scotland.
- Campaigns: Other parliamentary work including a backbench business debate and early day motion on Global Human Security, National Strategy for the Next Generations, and Future Check.
KPIs – we achieved 59% of our target KPIs.
Policy changes – we have seen two areas of significant impact:
- A UK government commitment to “review our approach to risk assessment” likely as a result of the secretariat staffs report on: Risk Management in the UK
- The Scottish Government’s plans for a Future Generations Commissioner as a result of our work, in particular with Phillipa Whitford MP, to raise the issue of Future Generations in Scotland.
Other evidence impact – additional evidence of impact comes from:
- The APPG grew to 108 members (June 2021) from 80 members (June 2020). We have also seen deepening engagement from key Members.
- Traction on the Future Generations Bill campaign in the UK with strong support from MPs and Peers, two private members bills laid, and 100s of media pieces written.
- Broad take-up of our ideas including in the UK government focus on resilience, local authorities focus on Future Generations and internationally.
- Interest in the research carried out by the secretariat staff, such as government interest in the ‘Future Proof’ report and Select Committee interest in our evidence.
- Positive feedback received suggests we have been useful to key stakeholders.
Key conclusions – there is clear evidence that the work we are doing is having an impact, and that this impact can be attributed to the APPG. We are seeing 1 key policy win and significant other evidence of impact achieved per ~£35,000 spent.
What is the APPG for Future Generations?
What are APPGs?
An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) is a group of UK Parliamentarians (MPs and Peers) that meet to discuss a particular topic. They are formally recognised, but have no formal powers or formal funding, so many of the more active ones are funded by charities or companies. APPG secretariats run events for Parliamentarians and manage the list of members. APPGs can take actions to build awareness of their issue or carry out research inquiries on key topics.
The APPG for Future Generations was set up by Cambridge students in October 2017 with support from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), following a recommendation in this paper (pre-print). The APPG was run by students and volunteers for 1.5 years until March 2019. Since then it has been run by a full time secretariat initially consisting of Sam Hilton and Caroline Bayon from March 2019 and including Natasha Brian from May 2020.
The APPG’s impact last year
Our previous year’s impact report is here, it covers the dates March 2019 to May 2020. Over that year the APPG built its profile in Parliament, ran 11 events and increased membership from 23 to 75+ members. The APPG worked to raise some cross-party support for a Future Generations Bill and lead to the creation of a new Select Committee.
The APPG in 2020
The APPG’s situation in June 2020
On 1 June 2020 the APPG had 80 Parliamentarians on their member list. Events were typically monthly and the Inquiry into Long-Term Thinking in Policy Making was in full swing. Natasha had just been hired and was learning the ropes.
The political situation in 2020-21
Following the 2019 December general election, the composition of Parliament became one which had a large conservative majority. In 2020-21 the key political issue was COVID-19. This also meant that all APPG events had to take place virtually.
The APPG’s 2020-21 strategy
Our 2020-21 strategy is available here (working document). The mission was:
To provide impartial education, support and advice to Parliamentarians to assist them in ensuring that the UK Government takes into account the rights of future generations and is effectively addressing existential and catastrophic risks.
The theory of change was:
Research policy + Grow the APPG + Campaign → Policy changes via Parliamentarians
How We Measure Impact
To measure the success of a policy intervention we would ideally identify:
- Actual concrete policy or institutional changes, changes to the law or to government guidance that directly benefits the world.
However such changes may be few and far between and may take years to manifest. As such we also measure the success by looking for:
- Traction: Successes that are the result of a planned effort. Eg: press coverage, endorsements that have been asked for, etc.
- Independent indicators: Specific successes that are independent of planned efforts Eg: unexpected endorsements or references to our ideas.
- Baseline changes: A background factor of the world that changes. For example if we have an increased Membership or particular topics are reported on more.
The policy space is incredibly crowded. There are many groups calling for change on even the most niche issues. Measuring attribution is therefore incredibly difficult. We estimate this as well as we can.
2. Inputs and actions
Since May 2020, the situation has been as follows:
Sam: 4 days a week until 31 Dec 2020 then 0.5-1 day a week, at £35,000 per annum pro rata.
Natasha: 5 days a week at £32,000 per annum.
Caroline: Input varies from 1 to 5 days a week, paid £10,700.00 for the period
Office and Communication costs: ~£3,100.00 (travel, events, etc)
Total cost: ~ £63,500.00
On average this was a total of 1.72 full time staff over the year. Sam and Caroline could have been earning higher salaries with Caroline in particular being significantly underpaid compared to her usual consulting costs. We are funding constrained and this is a key reason for Sam no longer working full time from the end of December 2020.
Staff time breakdown.
Time breakdown estimates:
(Rough estimates made post hoc)
Research: Inquiry (not the events) – 10%
Research: Risk Management Paper – 12.5%
Research: Future Check Development – 2.5%
TOTAL Research: 25%
Core task: Running events – 15%
Core task: Growing the APPG – 5%
TOTAL core tasks: 20%
Campaigns: Today for Tomorrow (T4T) – 25%
Campaigns: Other campaigns & support – 10%
TOTAL campaigns: 35%
Background: Ops, admin & volunteers – 10%
Background: Other Networking – 10%
TOTAL Background: 20%
The rest of this section sets out in detail what these actions were.
Research: The inquiry into long-termism
We have received evidence from former heads of the Civil Service, the head of the National Cyber Security Centre, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, a former UK Ambassador to NATO, former secretaries of state and ministers, Nobel laureate in economics Prof. Angus Deaton, Professor Michael Marmot (Chair of the Marmot Review), and others. Caroline has led the selection of speakers and drafting of the final report, which will be circulated to Parliamentarians for their review and further input.
Research: Risk Management
Sam with support from Caroline researched and produced a policy paper targeted at UK government actors on: Risk management in the UK: What can we learn from COVID-19 and are we prepared for the next disaster?. Evidence is partially drawn from the work done for the APPG’s inquiry. It has evidence from current and former civil servants who have worked across relevant departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Defence and Public Health England. The paper has forewords written by senior members of the main political parties: Graham Stuart MP (Con) and Bambos Charalambous MP (Lab).
The funds for this research came from additional funding provided by the Survival and Flourishing Fund and was carried out by Sam and Caroline in their capacity as research affiliates at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.
In February 2021, the APPG launched this paper at a virtual event for Parliamentarians which was attended by a BBC journalist, over 32 cross-party Parliamentarians and senior civil servants from Cabinet Office and Civil Contingency Secretariat.
The paper appears to have had an impact on government policy (see Impact section below).
Research: Future Check
Together the School of International Futures and the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations have piloted the use of citizen policy assessments, FutureCheck, to scan proposed legislation for potential positive and negative impact on the long-term and propose questions and amendments for parliamentarians to consider in the interest of future generations. Initial feedback from parliamentarians and citizens has been mostly positive.
Growth and events
The APPG has run a number of events over the last year (see timeline below). As well as running our own events we also invite APPG members to attend other events and to speak in relevant debates in Parliament. We have also been gradually growing the APPG’s Members list and developing closer relationships with MPs and their staff.
Today For Tomorrow campaign for a Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill
The APPG has been advocating for a UK Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. This campaign has been primarily led by Lord Bird (co-chair of the APPG) and his team at The Big Issue, under the heading of the Today For Tomorrow campaign.
In March 2020 the official response to an earlier draft of the bill had been that “The Government will not be able to support the Bill as it stands”. Whilst not positive, this did leave the door open to working out if the government would support an amended version of the bill. In May 2021 Lord Bird laid a redrafted House of Lords private members bill, which came first in the bill ballot so is receiving priority attention this Parliamentary session. (Note: private members' bills are mostly campaigning devices and they rarely become law.)
Significant ways in which the APPG has built support for this bill include:
- In January 2021, the APPG jointly ran a ‘Wellbeing Week’ alongside The Big Issue). The APPG supported the media push. Ahead of Wellbeing Week articles appeared in The Metro, The House, BBC News. We authored a joint op-ed for Simon Fell MP and Lord Bird encouraging MPs to sign up. In the build-up constituents were encouraged to write to their MPs asking them to take part in ‘5 minute drop in’ sessions.
- These drop-in sessions allowed youth ambassadors of the Wellbeing of Future Generations bill to meet with the MPs, urging them to support the bill. In total 66 Members of Parliament from 8 political parties took part in the sessions, including the leader of the Liberal Democrats (Ed Davey MP), the shadow Education secretary (Kate Green MP) and former Conservative Minister (Caroline Nokes MP). The Body Shop, The Big Issue, Sophie Winkleman (a member of the Royal Family) and the BBC all took part in viewing sessions.
- Following Wellbeing Week, 16 Parliamentarians from 8 political parties co-signed a cross party letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to introduce a Wellbeing of Future Generations’ Bill. Shadow frontbench MPs also sent their own letters to the Prime Minister. There was also national press coverage and ongoing coverage in the Big Issue.
- The original version of the bill has been redrafted and the APPG secretariat significantly contributed to the direction-setting and strategy of the re-drafting effort, redesigning it to be more appealing to the Conservative composition of Parliament.
- We introduced our Vice-Chair, Conservative MP, Simon Fell MP, to the Campaign Manager (Alex Phillips). In June 2021 Simon Fell MP subsequently took forward a Wellbeing of Future Generations bill in the Commons.
Facing our Future Report
- We significantly inputted into publication and drafting of the ‘Facing our Future’ Report. This is a report which makes use of the evidence collated by Portland Communications and highlights the public appetite for long-term thinking.
- We helped to organise an event which was launched for Parliamentarians. 20 Parliamentarians attended the event and the launch received significant media pick up. We believe there have been 266 pieces so far, with a global reach of 92 million. There was also radio coverage on: LBC News, James Whale’s show tonight on TalkRadio and on Matt Chorley’s show on The Times Radio tomorrow morning. We wrote two pieces: for The Evening Standard, and a Letter to Editor which appeared in The Telegraph.
- The Big Issue decided to establish a Future Generations Commission to emulate the part of the bill which would establish a commission with representatives from all four nations of the UK. We provided advice and support
- We meet with the Campaign Manager on a weekly basis (if not more often) and have assisted with ad hoc advice as well providing connections and information.
Wellbeing of Future Generations in Scotland
We have worked alongside our Vice-Chair, Dr. Philippa Whitford MP to help her draft a resolution for a ‘Wellbeing of Current and Future Generations’ Bill to be introduced in Scotland.
- Following an event that we held for Parliamentarians, we learnt of Dr Philippa Whitford (an SNP MP)’s interest in the Wellbeing of Future Generations’ Bill. She expressed a desire to introduce her own version of such a bill in Scotland.
- We supported her with this by introducing Dr. Whitford to the Welsh Commissioner, Sophie Howe. We also inputted into the drafting of her resolution.
- This initial support subsequently resulted in Dr. Whitford inviting Natasha to the SNP conference, as well as to the well attended fringe-event which Sophie Howe spoke at. The resolution was passed with a large majority at the SNP conference.
Third Sector Support
- Following the party conference, we met with third sector organisations including Carnegie UK, Oxfam Scotland, The Wellbeing Economy Alliance to gauge their interest in this bill. After good initial conversations, we convened a roundtable meeting so that Dr. Whitford could introduce these organisations to her bill and seek their support, with the hope of increasing the chance of the bill being incorporated into the SNP manifesto.
This work was successful (discussed more in the impact section below).
Other campaigns and parliamentary engagement
Global Human Security Debate and Early Day Motion
- We supported our Vice-Chair, Wera Hobhouse MP to apply for a backbench business debate on Global Human Security.
- The debate topic was successfully selected by the backbench business committee.
- We drafted speaking notes for Wera Hobhouse MP, and op-ed for Wera, briefing notes for other Members of the APPG, as well as engaging with the Minister’s office before the debate.
Queens’ Speech Debate: A Brighter Future for the Next Generation
- We drafted some words for Wera Hobhouse MP to speak in the Queen’s speech debate. Ms. Hobhouse and Beth Winter MP both spoke about the importance of having a Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.
If the Government were serious about a brighter future for the next generation, they would support a Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. From climate change to nuclear proliferation, from risks from future technologies to future pandemics, we need to foresee and plan for growing risks so that we are properly equipped to tackle them. That would ensure that future Governments publish a long-term vision for a better UK, as well as a national risk assessment looking forward over the next 25 years, after every general election. An Act dedicated to safe- guarding the wellbeing of future generations would set a gold standard for ensuring that preventive safeguards are in place before it is too late. After all, the experience of the covid pandemic has taught us that crisis prevention is even more important than crisis management.
– Wera Hobhouse MP, speech to Parliament, May 2021
Letter on the Rights of Future Generations
- Following the German Supreme Court ruling that the current climate policies breached the rights of future generations, the APPG convened a letter for Parliamentarians to sign to the Attorney General. The letter was Co-signed by Lord John Bird and Simon Fell MP and undersigned by 15 Members of Parliament.
- The Attorney General’s office wrote back setting out the concerns with the Wellbeing of Future Generations bill, suggesting that current mechanisms in place are sufficient and emphasising the government’s climate change policies
National Strategy for the Next Generations Campaign (alongside the School of International Futures)
- The National Strategy for the Next Generations (NSxNG) programme was a joint initiative of the School of International Futures and a coalition of partners (of which we were one). The programme explores how nations can develop national strategies that are fit for the next generations. We helped launch the report for Parliamentarians once it had been collated. The pilot caught a wave of interest and appetite to do things differently both across the national strategy community, and from citizens. SOIF used this to engage with the government on the government’s Integrated Review (IR) of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.
- To date, it has been hard to know how much the initial project has inputted into the IR outcomes, or how much it has contributed to prevent catastrophic risks.
Other: Networking and Support
Other projects: Other work on future generations policy and risk policy
We have given policy advice to and provided connections and support to various people and groups in the policy space. This includes UK civil servants, CSER staff, the Centre for Long-Term Resilience (CLTR), and the UN. We have maintained and built a strong network, meeting with Lords, MPs, academics (at CSER and the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI)), other APPG coordinators, civil servants, think tanks and other similar groups globally.
We supported the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI)’s push to mentor students. Caroline supervised the research of two undergraduate students working on existential risk topics, and presented the APPG’s work at their big event of the year.
Additional writing and Submission of evidence
Individual secretariat members have, in a personal capacity, contributed to policy papers, spoken to the media or submitted evidence to parliamentary Select Committees where questions raised match the research work done by the secretariat members. This includes Sam providing evidence to:
- Science and Technology (S&T) Committee inquiry on: Global Disease (July 2020),
- S&T and Health Committees inquiry on: Coronavirus: lessons learnt (Nov 2020),
- Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee inquiry (Feb 2021)
- Joint Committee on National Security Strategy (JCNSS) inquiry (Feb 2021)
As well as being a contributing author to:
- Future Proof – a policy report on the UK's resilience to extreme risks (June 2021)
- The Long View – a collection of essays to be published by Longview Philanthropy
Background work: admin, operations, networking and hiring.
We have worked on maintaining APPG status, fundraising, accounting, website design and other operations tasks.
Parliamentarians and members of the APPG’s secretariat at the APPG’s virtual Annual General Meeting and Launch of Risk Management in the UK Paper (February, 2021)
3. Key Performance Indicators Evaluation
In our 2020 strategy document, we set out the following key performance indicators (KPIs). Since then, we have used a traffic light system to assess how well we met our KPIs.
[This section is colour coded and in a table and we recommend viewing the version on p12 on the pdf here]
Admin: Pay taxes etc, file accounts, provide reports to funders, and so forth – ongoing.
Admin: Fundraising, raise funds to expand Caroline’s capacity – by 31 Jan 2020.
Admin: Fundraising, raise funds to extend contracts or hire new staff – by 1 Sept 2021.
Admin: The required meetings, attendance, AGM & admin to stay listed – by 28 Feb 2021.
Comms: Update website with members, write-ups & call for evidence – by 1 Sept 2020
Comms: Improve website appearance – by end of 2020
Comms: Start YouTube Channel to publish content – by end of year 2020
Comms: Increase Twitter presence and following to c.2,000 - by September 2021
Improvements made but could still be more polished
Started but low on content
Gone from 456 in June 2020 to 829 in July 2021
Research: Publish inquiry – sometime in Q1 2021.
Research: Publish report on risks – by 30 Sept 2020.
Research: Inequality / Poverty Seminar Series output document – by December 2020
Not done – ongoing
Published and launched.
Not done – 3 events held, no plans to produce a report
Grow: Reach 10% of all MPs and Peers are on our members list – by summer recess 2021.
Grow: At least 25% of our members are Conservative – at summer recess 2021
Grow: Median monthly attendance of 10+ Parliamentarians – in 2021.
Grow: Raise the use of “future generations” to 4x 2013 levels – by summer recess 2021.
Grow: Have 5 core Members willing to submit PQs for us - by summer recess 2021
Grow: Increase attendance of MPs at events - aim for 33% MPs for events in Q3 2021.
Grow: More public facing media - continuous
Gone from 5.5% to 7.5%.
Median attendance is 13.
Currently 3.6x 2013 baseline (target was too ambitious).
Yes, 7 keen MP members (although we rarely submit PQs).
MPs make up 40% of attendees. Inquiry events had fewer MPs.
Written op-eds for Simon Fell MP and Lord Bird in: Evening Standard, The Telegraph, House Magazine, Politics Home
Campaign: T4T _ Bill is passed in the Lords – by end of Parliamentary session (in 2021).
Campaign: T4T _ Future Generations Bill considered for adoption by SNP (in 2021)
Campaign: Inquiry _ a commons Backbench business debate – by summer recess 2021.
Campaign: Inquiry _ picked up on by National Press – sometime in Q1-Q2 2021.
Campaign: Inquiry _ meeting with Cabinet Office to discuss inquiry – sometime in Q2 2021.
Campaign: Inquiry _ one idea in inquiry is adopted by government – anytime.
Campaign: Other _ at least 4 other campaign project attempts – by Nov 2021.
Ongoing. At Committee stage now.
Not done. But did backbench debate on human security
Not done – inquiry not finished.
Not done – inquiry not finished.
Not done – inquiry not finished.
NsNG, Human Security, Future Check, Wellbeing week
Policy: 1+ direct attributable changes (amendment, new committee etc) – by 25 Nov 2021.
Policy: 1+ policies raised (in inquiry, in bill, etc) adopted by government – by 25 Nov 2021.
Scotland committed to a law to protect future generations
Gov committed to review of the national risk assessment
|Meta: Achieve 80% of the above goals||59% – 13 great, 2 done, 6 partial, 5 failed|
Overall, we are satisfied with this level of success. We think not having achieved 80% of our KPIs is largely a result of taking a slightly different focus. Two key factors are that the inquiry was extended to allow for additional speakers and that we brought on a new staff (Natasha) this year and adapted plans to play to her strengths. The membership has not grown as much as expected but engagement has deepened and there are now more key members (7 MPs and 4+ Lords) who are more willing to actively champion Future Generations issues.
We are very pleased that we achieved our 2 policy change KPIs.
Growth of the APPG
Membership has continued to grow, albeit fairly slowly, over the course of this year. We went from 80 members (01 June 2020) to 108 members (31 June 2021):
We remain fairly balanced with members from all key parties (data as at 30 June 2021):
We have seen an uptake in engagement with significantly more Parliamentarians attending our events as the year progressed (chart shows this year and previous year):
Overall we feel that whilst we have not grown our membership a significant amount, we have developed deeper engagement and have built good relationships with key APPG members. We believe there are 7 MPs who we consider to be highly engaged with the APPG.
Direct impact caused
This year we appear to have had two significant policy change impacts:
- A Future Generations policy in Scotland
- A government commitment review the approach to risk identification
A Future Generations policy in Scotland
As mentioned above we worked with Philippa Whitford MP (SNP) to draft and propose a resolution for a Future Generations policy in Scotland and have it voted on at the SNP conference. The resolution was passed at the conference in November 2020.
In April 2020 the SNP manifesto was published. The title of the bill had been amended, yet the content of Philippa’s resolution remained, committing to the SNP to:
Bring forward a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill to make it a statutory requirement for all public bodies and local authorities in Scotland to consider the longterm consequences of their policy decisions on the wellbeing of the people they serve and take full account of the short and long term sustainable development impact of their decisions.
Since then, the SNP has appointed 2 Green MSPs to their Government. One is Patrick Harvie MSP who has a specific responsibility to ‘appoint a Future Generations Commissioner’.
We are now working with cross-party groups to try and ensure that there is cross-party take up on this, including with Scotland’s Futures Forum, and that the policy is well designed.
Impact: Medium. Assuming this goes ahead, then Wales, Scotland and Gibraltar would all have Future Generations Commissioners. This strengthens the case and evidence base for England to follow suit. We believe that the long run effects of increasing representation for Future Generation will be positive, however the impact of specific approaches to achieve this are uncertain and may depend on the exact details of the policies put in place.
Attribution estimate: 95%. We believe that the APPG, especially Philipa Whitford MP, were responsible for driving this policy change. We know third sector organisations raising the issue of sustainable development but none with a representation of future generations angle. We acknowledge that support from Sophie Howe (Welsh Future Generation Commissioner) was very useful here.
Counterfactual impact estimate: 95%. We think there is minimal chance this would have happened anyway.
Challenges: We note that this policy change did not happen entirely as we would have preferred. We had hoped for manifesto commitments for a “Wellbeing of Current and Future Generations bill”, as per the resolution. However, the title of the proposed bill was amended to the “Wellbeing and Sustainable Development (Scotland) Bill”. We believe this was largely due to the other third sector actors who preferred the language of a “Sustainable Development”. Despite the title change the body of the resolution remained unchanged. We are pleased to see the “Future Generations” language being used again more recently.
A government commitment review the approach to risk identification
Following the writing of the report there was:
- Forewords added to the report by senior politicians from both sides of the UK political spectrum.
- Engagement with the paper from the House of Lords Risk Select Committee, various government officials (with the paper apparently sent to John Bew, Head of the Integrated Review) and the National Preparedness Commission.
- A launch event in February 2021 hosted by the APPG which was attended by 1 senior conservative MP (a Minister acting in his non-Ministerial capacity as an MP), 8 other MPs, 14 Peers, 2 senior civil servants working in this area and 7 other relevant civil service and parliament staff.
- An email in November 2020 from Cabinet Office staff making a non-public commitment to a “National Risk Assessment methodology review” and that the relevant team will “be in touch”.
- A following public commitment by the government “to review our approach to risk assessment” in the March 2021 Integrated Review (p89).
- A thank you letter from the Deputy National Security Adviser to Sam saying that his work contributed to the Integrated Review.
- In June 2021 the government commissioned the Royal Academy of Engineering to do research into this topic and the July 2021 National Resilience Strategy: Call for Evidence similarly suggested the government recognised this was an area with room for improvement.
Impact: High. We believe that better enabling governments to identify and manage extreme risks makes the world a more stable and resilient place for future generations.
Attribution estimate: 85%. The attendance at the launch event, email commitments and formal thank you letter show a significant level of government interest. We know of one other piece suggesting a review of government risk assessments, but have no reason to suspect it had significant government interest. We acknowledge that support from CLTR was useful here.
Counterfactual impact estimate: 67%. We think there is a decent chance this change would have happened anyway. Prior to writing this paper we would have put this chance at <10%, however the ease of success here might imply that we were suggesting things in line with internal government plans.
Evidence of momentum and traction
Not all of our impact comes from clearly identifiable policy changes. We believe that we also have an impact by generally promoting concern for Future Generations. We track evidence of our ideas spreading into the broader world.
The graph below shows how the use of the term “future generations” has increased in debates in Parliament from July 2017 to July 2021. This will be in part due to our briefings and in part independent from us.
Policy actions that are a direct result of steps we have taken are mostly covered in the Inputs and actions section above. In particular we have been able to build up significant momentum around the Today for Tomorrow campaign, such as:
- The Facing our Future Report being picked up in 266 media pieces with a global reach of 92 million.
- The 66 MPs from 8 political parties taking part in Wellbeing Week.
- The ~16 MPs who signed letters to the PM and to the Attorney General.
- The House of Lords debate on Lord Birds’ Wellbeing of Future Generations bill was overwhelmingly in favour of the bill, with only three Peers speaking against the bill.
There has also been some momentum built up by our research work
- Our submission to the JCNSS was heavily quoted and referenced in the final report.
- The policy ideas developed for Future Proof have formed the basis of much of the CLTR campaigning on improved resilience and Future Proof itself has been widely picked-up and seen by relevant policy makers.
The following policy changes are not a direct result of any steps we have taken, yet we hope that we, by broadly promoting Future Generations issues, may have played some small part in driving these changes and think it is useful to track these indicators.
Future Generations in UK local authorities
The idea of the Wellbeing of Future Generations caught traction in local authorities over the past year.
- Tracy Brabin (elected as Mayor for West Yorkshire in May 2021) included in her manifesto a pledge to ‘Appoint a set of Future Generations Commissioners’
- In January 2021, a Notice of Motion of Wellbeing of Future Generations was approved unanimously by Brighton & Hove City Council:
The motion demonstrates the council’s support for a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and associated impact locally. It is to ask the Chief Executive to write to the Government to request that local authorities are given the funding and powers needed to take action on the wellbeing of future generations, by implementing climate and ecological emergency action by 2030, further to the meeting of COP 26 in the UK this year. The council will also call on the Policy and Resources Committee to address the wellbeing of future generations in the city,
Our role: Small. Tracy Brabin was an MP and engaged with the Today for Tomorrow campaign whilst in Parliament.
UN (September 2021)
In September 2021, the UN published their ‘Common Agenda’ Report which detailed multiple commitments to future generations including:
- Summit of the Future in 2023
- Ensure long-term thinking, including through a United Nations Futures Lab
- Represent succeeding generations, including through a Trusteeship Council
- A Declaration on Future Generations
- A United Nations Special Envoy for Future Generations
The report also recognises that the flip-side of global public goods are global catastrophic risks. The report discusses “existential risk”. It proposes:
- An Emergency Platform to be convened in response to complex global crises
- Issuing a UN Strategic Foresight and Global Risk Report every 5 years
Our role: Negligible. We spoke to the UN on this (in June 2021) but believe this would have happened without us.
UK National Resilience Strategy (September 2021)
- Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt gave a speech launching a call for evidence for the UK’s National Resilience Strategy. She mentions the work of CSER and FHI, cribs central themes from Future Proof and references the need for the government to boost its understanding of risks.
- The National Resilience Strategy call for evidence proposes a vision “to make the UK the most resilient nation”. This is strongly in-line with and in the direction of one of our 10 year goals: To play a part in making the UK a leader in long-term resilience to extreme risks, championing the issue of extreme risks on the global stage.
Our role: Unclear (likely small but non-zero). This National Resilience Strategy Call for Evidence echoes many of the ideas discussed at the APPG (and in the risk paper) and may have drawn on our work. We do not have evidence that this is a result of our work so remain sceptical.
A note on the risks of policy work:
Whilst we believe that our work is influencing others to pursue indepently future generations' work separate from us, we are aware that this opens up the risk of losing control of the messaging. There is the possibility that others claim the ‘future generations’ idea and amend it to something which we do not endorse or that a political party could claim these ideas, undermining our cross-party approach. On balance, we think the broad promotion of the ‘future generations’ idea is positive. We take steps to minimise the risks.
Alongside conducting our independent impact report, we also approached our non-Parliamentary networks for feedback regarding our usefulness over the past year.
- 100% of those participants who took part agreed that the ‘APPG for Future Generations had a positive impact on your work in some way’.
- 100% of respondents ‘agreed’ (55%) or strongly agreed (46%) that ‘The APPG for Future Generations' work has positively influenced my own / my organisation’
- 73% of respondents ‘agreed’ (46%) or strongly agreed (27%) that ‘The APPG for Future Generations' work has helped me to consider long-termism in policymaking’
- 64% of respondents agreed (36%) or strongly agreed (27%) that ‘The APPG for Future Generations' work has made me more aware of future catastrophic risks’
We infer from this that the APPG has overall had a positive influence on stakeholders’ work. We could do more to understand how we support and influence other non-Parliament actors in future years impact reports.
We have also been independently compared to other similar organisations by a member of the Effective Altruism community. The review was generally positive and said: ‘The APPGFG spent roughly $40k for one full-time employee during 2020. This seems very inexpensive. If the APPG wanted to expand and thought they had someone they wanted to hire, it would be at the top of my list. It also seems likely that APPGFG's two existing employees could be paid better.’ We are open to other independent assessments.
We believe this year has been a success for the APPG for Future Generations.
The APPGs current areas of focus are long-term policy making that fairly incideres future generations and the prevention of catastrophic risks that threaten future generations. The core ideas of the APPG in these areas appear to be spreading throughout Parliament, government, the UK and the world. This can be seen in the rising interest of the Future Generations narrative both in local UK politics and at the UN or in the proposed direction of the UK government’s National Resilience Strategy.
This type of traction of ideas is the way many policy groups measure impact. It is mostly imprecise and messy but it is how advocacy works. But on top of this we appear to have been able to consistently produce policy wins attributable to our work. Including the APPG’s previous year’s success of setting up a new Select Committee and the two policy wins this year we seem to be able to create a major policy success for each £35,000 spent, on top of seeing the spread of our ideas.
Overall we have been significantly more impactful than expected. (So much so that It is possible we will see a regression to the mean effect in future years).
Lessons for the future
Going forward to have more impact the APPG might want to:
- Be better at setting achievable KPIs as a team. And working towards those KPIs.
- Update our strategy taking into account our 10 year goals and also thinking more about the value of idea promotion as well as policy change.
- Focus less on the UK Future Generation Bill itself, in its current form. Attention could be given towards achieving policy changes that are not a full UK Future Generations Bill but move the UK in the direction of the bill.
- Continue to produce research for others, such as CLTR or Parliamentary Select Committees.
- Grow the secretariat. Given our successes to date we may be able to expand the work we do and bring in additional funding. This could include fundraising for a ‘Future Check’ project in order to develop that work stream or developing plans to significantly grow the future generations, existential risk and related policy research in the UK.
Thank you for reading
If you have feedback on this document, or have a strong view on the value of this work, then get in touch. If you are interested in inputting into or funding our future plans then please do get in touch. If you are starting a similar project and want feedback, also get in touch.
You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org